Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Deal With It: is hiring someone to clean my house bad parenting?

I went back to school.

Okay, I enrolled in one class.

Okay, it's an online class.

Okay, it's a week-long online class.

OKAY it's only got one lecture, and no grades.

You people are killing me.

MY POINT IS that this class is helping me (baby steps!) to get myself back on track. And a big huge part of getting back on track is figuring out what I want. Starting with what would make me happy.

Now, besides a Mediterranean cruise - which would, by the way, make me very happy indeed. Unless, you know, this happened. And oh! The irony that the ship is named "Triumph". IRONY I LOVE YOU. But I digress. Besides the Mediterranean cruise, there are some other more manageable things that would make me very happy.

One of them is having someone help me get - and keep - this house in shape. My house is clean. My house is not a slum, and is not hugely cluttered. But it could be better. I need less piles of laundry, for starters.

Putting away laundry makes me profoundly unhappy. It makes me so unhappy that I choose not to do it - only to be made EVEN MORE UNHAPPY BY THE PILES OF CLEAN LAUNDRY EVERYWHERE. It could be worse, I suppose. It could be dirty laundry. But it's not! I don't mind actually washing the laundry. It is the putting away part that kills me.

I am convinced that there is someone, somewhere, who would love to iron and put away my laundry. I just know it. Person, I need to find you. I am thinking of placing an ad on Craigslist:
"Me: love to wash clothes, hate to put away. Owner of deluxe ironing board and excellent iron, along with plenty of hangers. You: love to iron, know the best way to fold a fitted sheet, and are comfortable opening drawers without fear of what may be inside. Let's connect. Piles of laundry await your TLC."

And then there are the little things. Like, dusting. I have all manner of ledges and nooks where dust accumulates, and I need someone to show up on a regular basis and deal with it. It's not laziness on my part - I just forget. Or postpone. For example (and this is, of course, just an example and bears no resemblance to my actual life. JUST AN EXAMPLE FOLKS.) I go to sweep away a cobweb I spot in the corner of my living room ceiling and a shower of dead ants rains down on me and its like a fucking horror movie and I NEED HELP PLEASE COME HELP ME.

I tried to have someone clean my bathroom but it turns out I am way too uptight to have anyone clean my bathroom sufficiently. So as much as I HATE cleaning my bathroom, I am going to have to keep that responsibility on my to do list. Luckily my uptight-ness compels me to keep the bathroom in a pretty manageable state.

But my stovetop? No. Not even close. It's a mess and I never find time to clean it.
Oh, and the windows.
And the window ledges.
And mopping.

I think this is what I am supposed to use the kids for - but the problem is that I don't want these things just done - I want them done well. Really well.

If I cannot do them myself - and time has shown I cannot be relied upon to do anything in a timely manner - and if my kids do a half-ass job when I try to pawn it off on them, then I guess I really do need to hire someone. But here is my conundrum: If I DO hire someone to come and deal with these things in a more thorough and timely fashion than I am willing or able to, is this a bad example to set for my kids? Should I be showing them that we all have to do things we don't want to do sometimes? It's not that I am lazy -  I am more than happy to pick up an extra shift at the restaurant to cover the cost - I just hate doing this stuff and then I procrastinate so that I am miserable because I HAVEN'T done this stuff. And then the self-loathing really kicks into high gear.

Do I have to clean my own house thoroughly as part of my responsibility as a mother? Am I supposed to teach them good habits and self-sufficiency even if it makes me completely fucking miserable? Do I have to set up a huge chore chart and give myself scratch and sniff stickers to get my ass in gear?

Because I really, really like scratch and sniff stickers, but I don't have a lot of faith that they will help in this particular situation. Though I suppose it's worth a try.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Putting the "fun" in fundraising: ".....and then I told those other mommies to go straight to hell"

This weekend was the annual fundraiser for my kids' school. The woman who had run the fundraiser for the past few years was out of the country, and because I have not an ounce of common sense, I went right ahead and volunteered to chair the damn thing.

Now usually, it's a pretty low key affair, held the week before Christmas. There is a huge amount of preparation on everyone's part, and we all just brace ourselves as best we can for a few hours of what I like to call "mandatory parenting". Show up with a hot dish, the kids sing, we eat food, we buy things at the silent auction as is expected of us, then everyone dashes out ASAP to go get drunk in their sweatpants in the privacy of their own home.

And of course, I had a better idea. Because I am an idiot.

Which is how we ended up holding a Renaissance Fair on Saturday, with me at the helm. And Sweet Jesus, did we hold a Renaissance Fair.

To begin with, we have a crowd of parents who are creative, enthusiastic, artistic, and bendy. Lotta yoga-ing and pilates-ing and Spirit of the Dancing going on up in here. We are no strangers to drum circles. I am not the only derby girl on the phone tree. It's a solid group of peeps who do not shy away from scarves and flowy pants and head wreaths, even if just for a trip to the grocery store. So when I said "Renaissance Fair", well, they really picked up what I was laying down.

I got swept up in the enthusiasm, and then the wave crested, and damned if that didn't happen about a week too early. In the days leading up to the event, I was getting more and more stressed out, merely because I was getting more and more exhausted. The questions just never stopped. The suggestions and corrections and feedback and criticism were never-ending. My confidence began to falter. And then crumble. Because why shouldn't it all go straight to hell? I was talking to parents on Monday that didn't realize - despite numerous conversations and emails and phonecalls and newsletters and sign-up sheets and two all-school meetings - that there was an event on Saturday. Yes, this Saturday. YES YOU HAVE TO BE THERE. HAVEN'T YOU HEARD OF MANDATORY PARENTING? Never mind that they had a booth to supply and run, and costumes to come up with, I started to panic that some people didn't realize that this shit was happening in 5 days. And then people wanted to change what they were doing, or add things, or ask questions, or get clarification or..... let's just say I stopped answering my phone and gave myself a one hour waiting period before responding to emails, so that my husband could peel me off the ceiling where I was clinging to the fan and sobbing.

On Thursday afternoon, when a mom asked me jokingly if she could change her booth idea and just do something completely different, I told her she could do whatever she wanted during the festival - and then she could go straight to hell. "Straight to hell" is a quote. It is what I shouted at her as I climbed into my car to drive three kids to various after-school programs, where I would wait for them in the car while responding to emails on my phone and feeding a baby and paying the mortgage because I FORGOT ABOUT THE HOUSE. hOWEVER, while it was all in good fun on Thursday, when another mom called me on Friday to tell me earnestly that she really was changing her plans for her booth and instead of making capes, she was bringing live fish to the event to give away, I was not amused. But hey, our beloved Alice was won during a festival at the Go Fish booth, so what the hell. Bring the fish. Bring chicks! Bring cute baby farm animals of all varieties as a matter of fact. WE'LL SELL GOATS THEY ARE SO HOT RIGHT NOW.

I was kind of losing my mind at that point anyway, so I really didn't have far to go when I bottomed out after that call. It's my own fault. I offered to do this, after all. But why? Why did  do this? Why does anyone volunteer to do ANYTHING EVER? As I stood in line at Costco with two carts of Faire Food, or in the kitchen baking 75 cupcakes for the festival because only one other mother had signed up to help with food, I was asking myself that very question: What is it, exactly, that compels me to volunteer?

It's not the OCD - that part of my personality that led to me cutting out 150 cloth napkins from old t-shirts and sheets at 11pm the night before the event.

And it's not the ADD - the part of my personality that led me to walk - nay, run - in circles around the event for 5 fucking hours in a floor-length velvet gown from the 50's - the one that I bought at a yard sale and wore to homecoming in 1992.

And it certainly isn't my fine-tuned organizational skills and go get 'em attitude. I don't have those.

No, what leads me to do this, to volunteer time and time again, is a glorious combination of being a total control freak, and having very grand visions. Grand visions, glittering and golden, so close that I can reach out and touch them, that do not always translate into an actual thing. And I never realize that the bright light up ahead is actually a train, until it is just a moment too late.

So we had an event, and I made cloth napkins and wore an old dress and I didn't cry. The kids danced, and recited, and made pinwheels and headwreaths and climbed in a cardboard castle and pulled up the drawbridge, and waved balloon swords and ate cupcakes and teetered around on stilts. It was great. But more importantly, it is over.

At the end of the night, as I stood alone in the rain outside of the church hall waiting for my ride, next to my two garbage cans full of trash, still in my velvet gown and head wreath, with the parish cat Rascal rubbing against my ankles and everyone else long gone, I could finally relax. I did it. I survived and the event happened and everyone seemed to have fun. I was on top of the world. Walking on air.

At that moment, the outside lights shut off.

And I was left standing in the dark, my dress covered in cat fur and my mind wrestling with the sudden realization that I had to pee, and the bathrooms were locked. So naturally, I headed off to find a dumpster or a tree or something equally discrete for a woman in a floor length evening gown to pee in out of doors in the pouring rain at 10 o'clock at night behind a church.

How far the mighty have fallen.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sobering: 30 days without drinking

A few weeks ago, I made a decision that was absolutely not a New Years Resolution, because I intend to keep this going beyond February. I decided not to drink anymore.

The immediate reaction ranged from shades of "Um excuse me what?" to "Better you than me" to "You don't drink that much anyway" to a strange negotiation along the lines of: "Well, you don't mean, like, never drinking again, right? Just not getting hammered. You can still have a glass of wine or something.....right?"


Sure, I can technically have a glass of wine. But I won't. I won't have a glass of wine because I don't want one. I am not having even just a sip, just to taste how fantastic it is. Not a beer either. Not even if you made it yourself. I will toast you with ginger ale, or root beer - and I won't be any less enthusiastic about it. Because I have spent years adjusting my behavior, and drinking less often, it is actually almost a relief to be able to finally just man up and say "No. I can't meet you for a beer. But I would love a cup of tea."

It's awkward, sure. I think if I was attending AA, or some terrible and dramatic event had transpired, or if people saw that my drinking was affecting my entire life in a negative way, it might be easier for people to accept my decision. As it is, I am greeted most often by confusion about my reasoning behind not drinking anymore. What would cause me to make such a ridiculous statement?

The bottom line is, whether you think it was necessary for me to stop is absolutely beside the point. I have learned over the years not to drink because I will inevitably get wasted. I have no off button. If I drink, I keep drinking until I cannot drink anymore. Or walk, for that matter. Or stand. Or sit. I've got nothing to prove, and no need to get absolutely hammered publicly anymore. And not to make that point, but rather to add to your speculation: if someone chooses to stop drinking, and your first thought is "they don't drink that much", you might want to consider whether you are really the best person to make that call.

Just a thought.

It is my birthday this weekend, and the first one in about 20 years that will not begin with bloody Marys and end with praying to sweet baby Jesus that my bedroom stop spinning, or - as happened on a particularly festive occasion, getting pulled out of a locked bathroom stall by the leg. where I was found passed out with toilet paper still in my hand. Or falling out of the (passenger seat) of the car headfirst into a snowdrift which remarkably failed to sober me up. Or being known as "the puker" and having people racing to get a trash can in front of you before you splash everyone.

There will be no champagne toasts during lunch, or margaritas at happy hour. Dinner will not include a bottle of my favorite cabernet, and karaoke will not be accompanied by shots of liquid courage. I have never said no to a Bloody Mary. This is going to hurt.

So here we go. If you are out there struggling with sobriety, know that while it may be easier for some people to quit drinking, being sober is still a source of constant conversation, negotiation, gossip, and amusement for others who are watching from the sidelines. Revel in the fact that telling them all to fuck off, getting in your car, and driving yourself home is suddenly an option when you haven't been drinking all night. I encourage you to give it a shot - no pun intended.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A separate peace. Sharing isn't caring, it sucks.

I have two kids.

They are 4 1/2 years apart in age, and so they have always had different interests, and abilities, and toys, and friends. They shared a room very briefly, when Lucy was small, and our house was....smaller. But we went to considerable lengths (and into considerable debt) to build them each their own bedroom. It was more than privacy for the obvious boy/girl reasons - it's privacy in general that I was striving for. To have a place where you can close the door on the rest of the world, especially when the rest of the world includes a sibling who is really pissing you off. Or touching your newest Lego creation or rearranging your dollhouse "because its better like this". Remarkably, the "help" they offer each other is never appreciated.

My point is: they don't have to share. I don't make them share. I don't make Max play with the younger kids if he doesn't want to, and I don't expect Lucy to include him in her girls-only movie nights. They have their own toys, I buy extra art supplies, obviously they don't share clothes, and as of yesterday, each has their own bike. For years, they have lived peacefully enough, with their own lives circling around each other. While I never forced them to share, or even really expected them to, it came naturally to them - Max is an attentive big brother, Lucy is his adoring little sister. They like to play together, they like the same movies and shows, and for the most part the battles can be contained to their heated games of "Battleship".

 And then, something shifted. Lucy had a sleepover last night. And this morning, Max was sitting on the sofa, surrounded by the girls, showing them a game on the iPad.
There he was, grinning like an idiot, with the girls giggling in unison, perched on the back of the sofa or leaning up close against him, feet tucked under his bathrobe.

Houston, I see the potential for a problem.

It is just a matter of time - four years, to be exact, before Max is driving them around.
Eventually, Lucy's friends will shift from "annoying" to "prom dates".
And suddenly, sleepovers just got a lot more complicated.

So while we sit over here discussing the benefit of installing motion sensors in bedroom doorways, and deciding who will take the shift sleeping outside in the hall to "keep an eye on things", and figuring out which of us has to sit in the tv room during the umpteenth viewing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Johnny Depp version, natch) to make sure boys are on one sofa and girls on another, you can take your "sharing is caring" mentality and stuff it.

I don't want them to share. Not at all.